¡Sí Se Puede! Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight on César Chávez & the UFW
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FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #161-4719 (Part 4)

Title: FBI Surveillance of César Chávez: File #161-4719 (Part 4)
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The primary source document described below, which can be viewed by clicking the thumbnail at right, is part of a 1,434-page file on César Chávez and the farmworker movement compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) between 1965 and 1973. The FBI's surveillance of Chávez, which paralleled larger efforts to prove that protest groups of the civil rights era had been infiltrated by subversive influences, was unable to uncover any evidence of communism or corruption in the activities of Chávez and his followers.

The FBI's dossier on
Chávez was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which contains provisions that allowed the FBI to withhold portions of the documents from public view. Indeed, many parts—and in some cases, entire pages—have been excised from the files. Nevertheless, the collection provides a compelling window into the efforts of the farmworker movement, as well as the values and methods of the FBI itself.

These documents stem from a September 15, 1966, memo from J. Edgar Hoover, in which the FBI director directs the Bureau's field offices to commence an investigation of César Chávez because he was being considered for a staff position with the Lyndon B. Johnson administration [File #161-4719 (Part 1)]. In this section of the file, the Washington field office reports on the results of its investigation, which was discontinued at the request of the White House on September 27.

A memo from the Washington field office dated September 29 lists included enclosures: (1) a report with information about Chávez, his associates, and the farmworker movement, which was obtained from an interview with a confidential source; (2) a copy of a Washington Post article from September 26; (3) a copy of the hearings before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor, which included a statement by Chávez; and {4) a report from the FBI's San Francisco office regarding an investigation into the Delano grape strike.

In the first enclosure, dated September 29, a source whose identity is protected said that he had only met Chávez twice and that everything he knew about the labor leader came from second-hand sources. The source advised that "in his opinion," some of Chávez's assistants, such as Wendy Goepel and Luis Valdez, had communist ties. The source concludes that he would not recommend Chavez for any position of "trust and confidence" in federal government because such a move would be a "political disaster" and "would do much" in supporting South American communist factions.

The second enclosure is a copy of an article from The Washington Post, "Pickers' Leader Picked?", which reports on the speculation that Chávez was being tapped for a White House job. According to the report, the news was met by "puzzlement"; it also noted that an executive of the AFL-CIO suggested that the rumors were being spread by the Teamsters, a rival union, to discredit Chávez.

The third enclosure is a copy of Chávez's statement before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Migratory Labor, in which he discusses issues of farm worker rights, including the problems of low pay, lack of union representation, and the exploitation of child labor. In the final enclosure, dated October 4, the San Francisco field office gives a brief report on Chávez, which it notes is unfinished due to the White House inquiry's official discontinuation on September 27.
 

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